L.A.'s Original Farmers Market Cookbook: Meet Me at 3rd and Fairfax by JoAnn Cianciulli brings the focus of L.A.'s famous gathering place back to where it belongs. Instead of waxing poetic about the dancing fountain, shiny retro trolley, and other tools of faux urbanism that have hogged attention since the Grove opened next door, this book is all about what's distinguished that corner since 1934. The market's appeal has never waned (save for a fear of pigeons that might briefly strike some Los Angeles children, ahem), since it's only the truest curmudgeon who's uninterested in people watching, great products, diversity in every sense, and buzzing urban vitality in a city where that's meted out in limited doses. Time flies when you're at the Farmers Market. (It's functioned as the ideal precursor to the modern American food court, until Victor Gruen and his cohorts reshaped what it meant to have eating choices and variety agglomerated into one space.)
When asked about her motivation for writing the book, Cianciulli, who in addition to writing books (Michael Mina), has worked on Top Chef and several Food Network shows, says, "The food merchants were my true inspiration. They offer a personal experience, which has largely been lost in the service industry today. As I got to know them and their history, I learned a lot about all sorts of interesting, delicious things and wanted to share their enchanting stories as well as their signature recipes."
The book release party on Thursday night brought out what's best about the market's spirit: lots of food, socializing, sampling and plain old-fashioned wandering around the stalls. Cianciulli was on hand to meet n' greet and sign copies, and some familiar faces, like the Huntington Meats guys, graciously obliged autograph seekers. Guest chefs Nancy Silverton, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo from Animal, Neal Fraser and others served their homages to the market, along with Susina and Joan's On Third. Third and Fairfax stalwarts and relative new kids on the block, including Monsieur Marcel, Patsy's, the French Crepe Company, Loteria, and Ulysses Voyage, put out tasty trays to help inspire folks to explore the cookbook. That was just to get people started. All the marching orders you need along with fun anecdotes are found within L.A.'s Original Farmers Market Cookbook.
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Cianciulli also appears at the LA Times Festival of Books Culinary Stage with Amelia Saltsman on Saturday, April 25 at 11:00 a.m. at UCLA.